When you think of Poland, your first thoughts aren’t likely to be of its coastal offerings. But in actual fact, Poland is a wonderful coastal destination that many families decide to visit on holiday, particularly on European cruises. With bustling seaside venues, white sand beaches and a colourful heritage to uncover, there is plenty of family-friendly fun to be had in Poland that many are yet to realise.
In this article, we take a look at Poland’s Tri-City, a famous metropolitan region on the north coast comprised of cities Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot. We asked bloggers who are familiar with the region about some of the fantastic things you can get up to with your family in each of these compelling cities.
Things to do in Gdańsk
At the forefront of the Tri-City, Gdańsk is a colourful port city with an intriguing history. When exploring Gdańsk, you’ll find that its turbulent history is prevalent throughout, particularly in its architecture. For hundreds of years, Gdańsk bounced between German and Polish territory, and towards the end of WWII, Gdańsk endured heavy air raids, particularly along its Main Street. When it was rebuilt, architects did not want to build it to look like its previous German architecture, instead choosing to rebuild it to look more French and Dutch.
“Many of those who travel to Gdańsk are surprised by its historic city centre,” says Paulina, travel blogger at Paulina on the Road. “Indeed, it reminds you of towns like Bruges or Amsterdam. This is no surprise as Gdańsk did a lot of commercial exchange with the Dutch-speaking regions.”
Visit the European Solidarity Centre
Although there are many museums to visit in Gdańsk, Paulina recommends one in particular. “One of my favourite places to visit in Gdańsk is located a bit at the outskirts of the city: the European Solidarity Centre (ESC). It's much more than a museum about the opposition movement against the communists. It's a place where people meet and hang out at its stylish cafeterias and the centre can be easily reached with a walking tour in Gdańsk.”
We also spoke to Andy at Grown Up Travel Guide, who also agreed that the ESC is a must-visit to truly appreciate Gdańsk’s history. “It's no secret, but you have to visit the European Solidarity Centre, an incredible multi-purpose building that was voted the best museum in Europe a couple of years ago. The permanent exhibition is found on the first and second floors and covers almost 3,000 square metres. I have no desire to spoil it for you, suffice to say that it is one of the most moving presentations of modern history I have ever experienced, and if you make it through with dry eyes, you are stronger than most!
“The sacrifices these workers and their families made is something that most of us will never fully understand or be able to relate to, and the extreme brutality of the communist government is still hard to believe.”
Admire the grandeur of St. Mary’s Church
We also spoke to Tanja, one half of travel duo TwoTell. She was taken aback by Gdańsk’s enchanting architecture and recommends visiting a spot that will allow you to take in the panorama of the city. “This city is full of history, so I advise climbing the 405 steps up to the tower of the famous St. Mary’s Church, which is thought to be the largest brick church in the world. Once you reach the top, you’ll have incredible views of this beautiful city.”
Tying in with a visit to the ESC, the church holds over 25,000 people, which made it a place of refuge for people of the solidarity movement. Walking along its corridors is a spellbinding experience, with light bouncing off the walls thanks to the church’s 37 colossal windows. Further adding to the size of the structure, there are roughly 30 chapels to discover and over 300 grave slabs tiling the floors.
Things to do in Gdynia
A smaller city with a big nautical history, Gdynia is home to a wide dock lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, bars and cafes with outdoor terraces, perfect for taking a load off and watching people go about their day.
As a port city, activities generally revolve around the seaside. Whether that’s visiting the main pier or the aquarium or Michelinki Beach, Gydnia is perfect for families looking to enjoy some quality time together while exploring the city’s coastal offerings.
Visit the two floating museums
Tanja has also visited Gdynia and highly recommends learning about its maritime history by exploring two of its floating museums, Blyskawica and Dar Pomorza. “There are two really amazing battleships which are now museums directly at the end of the harbour, across from the aquarium - you can’t miss them. I really recommend visiting at least one of them in order to get an impression of the great seafaring tradition of the city.”
Browse hand-crafted handbags at Mana Mana
Away from Gdynia’s maritime history and culture, you’ll find Mana Mana, a successful handbag shop that had humble beginnings. Recommended by Andy, this handbag shop is more than just a retailer, with a fabulous story to tell.
“This bag manufacturer takes pride in using the best quality materials and its aim is to promote the revival of hand-made quality with modern, fun designs. Originally started in a tiny apartment in Gdynia in 2011, Mana Mana grew through word of mouth and social media and expanded so rapidly that a new premises had to be found and extra staff employed. It is very inspiring to learn the history of this booming small business, and to see the artisans at work.”
Things to do in Sopot
The final pillar of Poland’s Tri-City, Sopot is a seaside resort located between Gdańsk and Gdynia that’s full of intriguing architecture and glitzy bars and restaurants. Visited by a wealth of travellers, Sopot remains a popular destination for people looking for sun, sea and sand alongside eccentric architectural delights.
From its numerous beaches to tourist attractions such as a wax museum, aqua park, you’ll also find Sopot’s impressive main street, Monte Cassino, which is home to an eclectic mix of bars, cafés and restaurants. Although Sopot isn’t a cruise port, it’s only 20 minutes away from both Gdańsk and Gdynia, making it the perfect family day out.
Grab a bite at the Sztuczka Bistro
If you’re looking to sample some of the local cuisine Paulina has a great restaurant suggestion. “The most obvious attraction of Sopot is definitely the pier. But did you know that Sopot is a foodies’ heaven too? I recommend having lunch or dinner at the stylish Sztuczka Bistro. They serve traditional Polish cuisine with a modern and innovative twist. The setting is gorgeous and thus perfect for your Instagram posts.”
Marvel at the Crooked House
Famous for its architectural masterpieces, Tanja recommends seeing one of Sopot’s most famous spots for yourself, Krzywy Domek, or as it’s more fondly known, the crooked house. “You will not believe it until you see it. I came across the crooked house randomly in the middle of the pedestrian zone. Although it doesn’t look like it, there are several bars, cafés and restaurants inside. Take your time exploring inside and then enjoy a coffee in one of its many cafés.”
Uncover architectural gems
If you’re looking to get away from the busy tourist spots and do some exploring as a family, Andy recommends heading off the beaten path to see what amazing sights you encounter. “There is far more to Sopot than the beach and Monte Cassino. One of the best ways to explore is simply to wander without a map; head away from the main tourist areas and take the side roads. You will discover an amazing mix of architectural styles and a plethora of beautifully restored old houses, dilapidated buildings yet to be cared for and Soviet-style apartments. Take the road less travelled!”
Have we inspired you to visit Poland and the coastal delights of the Tri-City for yourself? Cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line or Princess Cruises also means you can experience a range of onboard adventures too, including arcades, mini golf, cinemas and so much more. Browse our cruises to Poland or get in touch with the team today.